Second Look: 2012 Ford Focus

Jeffrey Jablansky

One can argue that, regardless of Ford's "One Ford" globalized marketing campaign that only recently debuted, the brand's first global car for the new millennium was the 2000 Focus. It promised European-tuned driving dynamics in an attractive set of body styles, unfiltered, and it was sold in markets across the world. We were instantly smitten and named it our 2000 Automobile of the Year, writing that "Ford designers and engineers have scrapped all the old paradigms about what small cars ought to be." Developed under the watchful eye of Ford development chief Richard Parry-Jones, the Focus far surpassed the bar set by its predecessor, the Escort.

We delighted in early evolutions of the Focus, especially the SVT-tuned hatchback that posed a credible threat to its competitors. But Ford's attention to keeping American customers happy began to wane when a second-generation Focus was introduced in Europe and withheld from the United States. As our Focus gained weight, unattractive trim, and a soggier suspension, distance began to grow from its tauter, more stylish European counterpart, and enthusiasts turned away.

For 2012, Ford hopes to recapture the magic lost on the tuned-for-America Focus with a renewed global effort. The next Focus was shown for the first time at last January's Detroit auto show and preceded the introduction of Ford's other recent global small car, the Fiesta. At a preview event in Dearborn, Michigan, prior to the 2010 Paris Auto Show reveal of several new Focus variants, we heard from ebullient engineers and product planners about their ambitious plans for the redesigned model.

Global sedan, regional marketing strategy
With the previous generations of the Focus, although Ford offered a sedan, wagon, and hatchback, regional demand for each body style varied. According to marketing manager Mark Kaufmann, a take rate of less than 15 percent caused the company to drop a hatchback from the U.S. vehicle lineup in 2005; by contrast, some 50 percent of Focus models sold in Italy and Germany are reported to be wagons, with little to no interest in sedans. For 2012, Ford will sell a five-door hatchback and four-door sedan in the U.S., followed by the C-Max multipurpose vehicle. Conversely, Ford has no plans to sell the sedan in Europe, save for trunk-happy markets like Turkey and Russia. Early predictions, though, are higher for the new Focus hatchback, as nearly 60 percent of customers have preferred the Fiesta hatchback to the sedan.

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Wow! Good looking at any price! Fabulous looking at C segment price!
Edward A. Sanchez
I'm holding out for the ST. Actually hoping a PowerShift option will be announced for it eventually.

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